Student Competitions

MIT Holds First Clean Earth Hackathon

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) held its first Clean Earth Hackathon over the Earth Day weekend. More than 70 students and professionals from MIT and other organizations came together to focus on real-world environmental challenges.

MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) organized the event in collaboration with Sustainability@MIT. The idea for the hackathon came from MIT students last year, and the coordinators spent most of the school year organizing the event. They collaborated with industry and government organizations to identify pressing real-world sustainability challenges for hackathon teams to tackle. The challenges fell under four broad categories: natural resource management, environmentally conscious design, mobility in the modern world and refueling the next generation. The four winning teams won $1,000 each.

"Teams organized themselves around complementary skills and talents," said Markus Buehler, head of the department of CEE, in a prepared statement. "Their solutions epitomized what 'Big Engineering' is all about — producing large-scale impact on people and sustainability, covering a spectrum of activities from environment to systems to infrastructure."

The four winning projects were:

  • A proposal to make glass recycling and reuse more sustainable;
  • A new app to help cyclists record their movements, so the the Massachusetts Department of Transportation can use the anonymized data to improve infrastructure and systems to promote cycling as a form of transportation;
  • A proposal to help the Patagonia Conservancy, a new national park in Chile, be fossil-fuel independent; and
  • An interactive map that evaluates the cost-effectiveness of closing coal plants in the United States and tracks each plant's return on investment for switching to a more sustainable energy source.

MIT is considering holding its second Clean Earth Hackathon at the beginning of the next school year, so students can use the event to prepare for the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge and other startup contests that take place during the school year.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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